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Icelandic Literature 2014 > febrúar: Halldór Laxness, "Fish Can Sing"

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message 1: by Maggie (new)

Maggie | 177 comments About The Fish Can Sing it has been said:

“This weird and wonderful novel is Laxness at his best: a reminder of the mad hilarity of the Icelandic sensibility.” —Nicholas Shakespeare

"Enchanting . . . .This novel is a true pleasure." —The Independent (London)

"Laxness is a beacon in twentieth-century literature, a writer of splendid originality, wit, and feeling." —Alice Munro


Join me in reading this classic of Icelandic literature about a boy discovering his place in the world.


message 2: by Betty (last edited Feb 01, 2014 05:20PM) (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3610 comments I'm definitely in, Maggie. This appears to be a great Icelandic novel, drawing its distinctive setting from Iceland and bringing in Laxness's style of humor and even irony. In my edition, there's Jane Smiley's Introduction, in which she points out both the humor and irony in the style and the autobiographical traits in the characters Alfgrimur and Gardar. She distinguishes private morality from public morality in the novel and introduces the characters and their relationships. There will undoubtedly be similarities between Iceland's Bell and The Fish Can Sing.


message 3: by Maggie (new)

Maggie | 177 comments But this piece takes place after the turn of the 20th Century. I think about 1910.


message 4: by Betty (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3610 comments You're right. Laxness is born in 1902, so the memories of his formative childhood years must be intense for the autobiographical element to apply.


message 5: by Maggie (last edited Feb 01, 2014 07:10PM) (new)

Maggie | 177 comments If you Google "Icelandic Barbed Wire" there are some pictures of it. It apparently resembles Razor Wire.


message 6: by Maggie (new)

Maggie | 177 comments Hidden People, according to Wikipedia, is: Huldufólk (Icelandic hidden people from huldu- "pertaining to secrecy" and fólk "people", "folk") are elves in Icelandic folklore. Building projects in Iceland are sometimes altered to prevent damaging the rocks where they are believed to live. According to these Icelandic folk beliefs, one should never throw stones because of the possibility of hitting the huldufólk. In 1982, 150 Icelanders went to the NATO base in Keflavík to look for "elves who might be endangered by American Phantom jets and AWACS reconnaissance planes." In 2004, Alcoa had to have a government expert certify that their chosen building site was free of archaeological sites, including ones related to huldufólk folklore, before they could build an aluminum smelter in Iceland. In 2011, elves/huldufólk were believed by some to be responsible for an incident in Bolungarvík where rocks rained down on residential streets. Icelandic gardens often feature tiny wooden álfhól (elf houses) for elves/hidden people to live in. Some Icelanders have also built tiny churches to convert elves to Christianity. President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson has explained the existence of huldufólk tales by saying: "Icelanders are few in number, so in the old times we doubled our population with tales of elves and fairies." Hidden people often appear in the dreams of Icelanders. They are usually described as wearing 19th-century Icelandic clothing, and are often described as wearing green.[21]

They are also a part of folklore in the Faroe Islands. In Faroese folk tales, Huldufólk are said to be "large in build, their clothes are all grey, and their hair black. Their dwellings are in mounds, and they are also called Elves." They also dislike crosses, churches and electricity.

The term huldufólk was taken as a synonym of álfar (elves) in 19th century Icelandic folklore. Jón Árnason found that the terms are synonymous, except álfar is a pejorative term. Konrad von Maurer contends that huldufólk originates as a euphemism to avoid calling the álfar by their real name.

There is, however, some evidence, that the two terms have come to be taken as referring to two distinct sets of supernatural beings in contemporary Iceland. Katrin Sontag (2007) found that some people do not differentiate elves from hidden people, while others do. She also cites the preliminary results of a 2006 survey by Terry Gunnell, which finds that "54.6% of 639 persons said that they would not distinguish between álfar and huldufólk, 20.0% said they would and 25.4% were not sure."

Those who have seen the "huldufólk" would describe them as,"Glowing, light white, attractive".


message 7: by Betty (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3610 comments Maggie wrote: "If you Google "Icelandic Barbed Wire" there are some pictures of it. It apparently resembles Razor Wire."

Maggie wrote: "Hidden People, according to Wikipedia, is: Huldufólk (Icelandic hidden people from huldu- "pertaining to secrecy" and fólk "people", "folk") are elves in Icelandic folklore. Building projects in I..."

I'm keeping the Barbed Wire age and Huldufólk in mind as I read the chapters of this novel. From time to time, I'm perusing some reviews on GR and LaxnessInTranslation, and some articles. The best place to start is with the book itself as you are doing.


message 8: by Maggie (last edited Feb 02, 2014 08:53AM) (new)

Maggie | 177 comments Asma, I was wrong about the time this book is set in. King Kristian IX is clearly living when the boy and the Captain go to see the Minister. The Boer War ends in 1902 and the king dies in 1906, so it boy must have been born just before the turn of the century.


message 9: by Betty (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3610 comments Maggie, I'm not as far into the novel as the Boer War. Astoundingly from the p.o.v. of today, Grandfather the fisherman in Iceland does not know of London, England. The reason for the novel's not yet mentioning the BW and King Kristian IX is the age of the boy Álfurgrímur, who focuses on the Grandfather's farm and visitors to it. A clue to the time period is that business ethics ("supply and demand") are overtaking traditional ways of assessing valuation of things. Somethg tells me pre-WW1, before the isolation is broken by radio, which develops in the nineteenth century and is introduced from 1900 onward (Wikip).


message 10: by Betty (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3610 comments Maggie wrote: "...King Kristian IX is clearly living when the boy and the Captain go to see the Minister. The Boer War ends in 1902 and the king dies in 1906, ..."

I am noticing some changing times in Iceland as young Álfurgrímur includes them in his narrative: the age of barbed wire, laws pertaining to jumping over it, motor-car, cement-sided cess-pits, cyclists. The innovations are related to humans, sometimes with bittersweet consequences, as in the boys imaginatively accruing gold and sheep by jumping over the wire two hundred times but then Álfurgrímur's having to bring pot-bread to the owners to make up for it, and as in Runólfur Jónsson's raucously drunken walk in the road ending his life by being run over by Iceland's first motor car. According to the BBC timeline, 1904 is a significant year for technological and economic advancement. When Álfurgrímur's mother leaves him to go to America, it's probably part of the great migration from Iceland to the Americas between the 1870's to 1890's because of severe cold weather. Along with the changing times, I notice how Álfurgrímur and Grandmother differently regard the farm and domestic animals. Álfurgrímur's poem about the dog and Grandmother's rhyme about the cow are endearing. Quite a surprise is numerous visitors and long-term residents in the levels of the house and in the smaller buildings, Álfurgrímur describing everything he knows about those in the house's mid-loft.


message 11: by Maggie (new)

Maggie | 177 comments I agree, and once he goes to school his world widens and he's introduced to other wonders, including musical instruments.

I love the humor with which he writes so much of it and the endearing quality of his characters. He wraps them in a warm blanket for us.


message 12: by Betty (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3610 comments Maggie wrote: "I agree, and once he goes to school his world widens and he's introduced to other wonders, including musical instruments..."

The story's Icelanders enjoy evenings of communal entertainment, a form of sung storytelling called rímur,
"For the benefit of those who no longer know what Icelandic ballads (rímur) are, I shall interpolate here that they are a form of poetry about heroes of olden times and mighty deeds from the days of the epic; this poetry is composed of intricately rhymed quatrains, sometimes so intricate that each strophe is a rhyme-riddle. A medium-sized ballad, that is to say one ballad-cycle, can be thirty poems, each one of them consisting of at least a hundred quatrains. There are hundreds of rímur in Iceland, some say thousands. My grandmother also knew whole books of psalmody."--ch 10
Her foster son, the novel's narrator Álfurgrímur, frequently sings Hallgrímur Pétursson's funeral psalm, popularly known as "Just as the one true flower".

The recording notes for "ICELAND Steindor Andersen: Rimur (Icelandic Epic Song)" describe rímur as
"Ríma (plural rímur) is a traditional form of narrative Icelandic epic song chanted or intoned in a specific manner called “ad kveda.” The inner structure and content can partially be traced to Eddic and Skaldic poetry of the Viking Age. The rímur rely on the complex metaphors called “kenningar” (singular kenning) and the poetic synonyms called “heiti.”
The Skaldic poetic stanza was an extremely intricate construct with a unique poetic vocabulary and syntax, frequently employing metaphors within metaphors in a manner reminiscent of the cryptic crossword..."--Naxos Music Library
The description becomes considerably involved, but this gives an idea of it.


message 13: by Maggie (new)

Maggie | 177 comments I'm nearly finished with this book, but I can't help but thinking that the superintendent had the right idea about his job. He does not have to worry about being supernatural to others, he just does his best to help them as he can. The "supernatural being" certainly does not appear to be happy.


message 14: by Maggie (new)

Maggie | 177 comments I've finished the book and loved it even more the second time than the first. What a wonderful group of rich characters Laxness presents to us.


message 15: by Betty (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3610 comments Maggie wrote: ...the superintendent had the right idea about his job. He does not have to worry about being supernatural to others, he just does his best to help them as he can...."

"Superintendent and Visitor", chapter 16, is a philosophical section. The superintendent Jón of Skagi is a disembodied voice the narrator hears in the mid-loft when he awakens during the night. The superintendent is conversing with a person unknown to the woken-up boy narrator. The gist of the superintendent's conversation is his philosophy, part of which is to help people do what they want to do. The superintendent in "Mid-Loft", chapter 8, is described as "probably descended from the Hidden People...so clean and spruce that he shone...he was a philosopher...the one member of our fellowship who chiefly graced out company by his absence."

The superintendent continues the nocturnal conversation on the subject of the supernatural,
"...I sometimes think...about one number--the number One. But I will admit that it is also the most incomprehensible number in the world. Beyond this particular dimension I know only one thing which is supernatural, even though it may well be the reality that affects mortal men most deeply; and that is Time. And when one comes to think about this strange place I was telling you about, the world that is only One, and its connection with the only supernatural thing we know, Time, then everything ceases to be higher or lower than anything else, larger or smaller."
Along with the superintendent and visitor's conversation, the intriguing phrase "one pure note" appears throughout the story.


message 16: by Betty (last edited Feb 10, 2014 08:03PM) (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3610 comments Maggie wrote: "I've finished the book and loved it even more the second time than the first. What a wonderful group of rich characters Laxness presents to us."

I'm at the part where Gardar Holm makes a second appearance in the town. Some points about his physical appearance puzzle Alfgrimur the teen narrator; whereas the town's residents believe without doubt that their native son Gardar is a world-famous singer. Alfgrimur would like to hear Gardar sing Schubert's "Erlkönig", a song that goes back through a Goethe poem into folklore.


message 17: by Maggie (new)

Maggie | 177 comments Asma wrote: "Maggie wrote: "I've finished the book and loved it even more the second time than the first. What a wonderful group of rich characters Laxness presents to us."

I'm at the part where Gardar Holm m..."


Thanks, I didn't know about the poem or folklore, though I think Alfgrimur wanted to sing it for the music without knowledge of its connection (though I'm sure Laxness knew and chose it for that reason). Gardar Holm and Alfgrimur have some interesting conversations about music during the book, which I found entertaining. I appreciated the fact that Alfgrimur didn't seem to be particularly impressed with Holm, but seemed to watch him in the way one would an oncoming car wreck. He treated him as an important oddity.


message 18: by Betty (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3610 comments Maggie, the part I'm in now builds upon the abstraction of the one pure note and the true note in Gardar and Alfgrimur's conversation into Ebeneezer Draummann's esotericism and his belief in spiritual healing.


message 19: by Maggie (last edited Feb 27, 2014 08:24AM) (new)

Maggie | 177 comments Asma wrote: "Maggie, the part I'm in now builds upon the abstraction of the one pure note and the true note in Gardar and Alfgrimur's conversation into Ebeneezer Draummann's esotericism and his belief in spirit..."

The Fish Can Sing is such an interesting book that I'm sorry more of our group didn't join us but, perhaps, they will read it further into the year and come in to comment.


message 20: by Carolyn (new)

Carolyn | 8 comments HKL, through his fiction, captures the essence of time and place in a way few novelists achieve. It is painterly rather than merely photographic, a miniature rather than a panorama: one star, one blade of grass. There is also the wonderful irony that infuses all his works, but this one is up there with my absolute favourite books of all time.


message 21: by Betty (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3610 comments Nicola, what really strikes me are the variety of characters in the community. They seem all different from each other in their traits, opinions, and backgrounds. Especially humorous from my p.o.v. is chapter 32, the town meeting about the Barbers' Bill.


message 22: by Betty (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3610 comments The title The Fish Can Sing is referred to in chapter 35, Ribbons and Bows. The bows are put on everything in a respectable Danish household. Gárdár Holm the opera singer says that the Icelandic cod must acquire an international reputation: presented in a restaurant not only beribboned but singing.


message 23: by Carolyn (new)

Carolyn | 8 comments This is so typically HKL, offsetting the pretensions of Danish 'respectability' with the dirt-floor practicality of Alfgrimur's adopted family.


message 24: by Vicky (new)

Vicky (starfish13) | 4 comments I'm nearly finished with the book, and I've enjoyed it immensely. I love your description Carolyn, ...captures the essence of time and place in a way few novelists achieve. It is painterly rather than merely photographic, a miniature rather than a panorama... very fitting.


message 25: by Betty (last edited Mar 14, 2014 01:22PM) (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3610 comments Carolyn wrote: "This is so typically HKL, offsetting the pretensions of Danish 'respectability' with the dirt-floor practicality of Alfgrimur's adopted family."

The insights about practicality and culture are some of the interesting passages in The Fish Can Sing. Alfgrímur is a practical, unpretentious character in contrast to Gardar. He likely is the one to attain the "pure note", which, I take to mean, choosing what actually makes you content. Gardar is the sophisticate, though he might sleep in the hay, limning for Alfgrímur how people lead more satisfying lives with unsubstantiated beliefs/myths, believing in imagined ghosts and in world-renowned singer Gardar, for instances (ch36). HKL seems to bring humor with regard to the state of Iceland's culture, to be weighing whether Iceland is better to be true to the self (lumpfisherman), like the Danish woman in Iceland tying ribbons and bows on everything, or to be imitating the rest of the world.

ALSO: Gardar says that those myths are the most satisfying during the quest for the pure note, even more satisfying than attainment. A caveat is that the fame freely handed to you by others is not you and, presumably, is part of others' quests:
"...it takes a real man to attain that one pure note; many have given all that they had, even their physical and mental health, and died without ever having attained it. And yet they were to be envied, compared with those others who became famous singers without ever knowing that the one pure note existed; and they were happy in comparison with those few who came near it for a moment, or even actually attained it."
Gardar seems the Socratic teacher of Algrímur, asking closed, this-or-that questions of the young student who openly answers them from his vastly different perspective.


message 26: by Betty (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3610 comments Vicky wrote: "I'm nearly finished with the book, and I've enjoyed it immensely. I love your description Carolyn, ...captures the essence of time and place in a way few novelists achieve. It is painterly rather ..."

Exactly, about "the essence of time and place". In addition, Laxness writes beautifully. And he doesn't tell all, leaving, for instance, the certainty about Gardar's end to interpretation, if one shares Alfgrímur's thoughts.


message 27: by Maggie (new)

Maggie | 177 comments Carolyn, Vicky, and Asma, your comments and thoughts are very helpful in understanding this slim, but very meaningful book.


message 28: by Betty (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3610 comments Maggie wrote: "Carolyn, Vicky, and Asma, your comments and thoughts are very helpful in understanding this slim, but very meaningful book."

It stretches the credulity that the hometown, slice-of-life The Fish Can Sing and the historical saga Iceland's Bell are written by the one and the same, versatile author. I am glad that I read both books and that several people are reading these stories, enjoying them privately or posting comments in the pages of The World's Literature. Kudos to you, Maggie, for suggesting the book and for leading the discussion. ✪


message 29: by Betty (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3610 comments Don wrote: "...I'm not sure sometimes about Laxness is being ironic and when he is not. I take it to be a bildungsroman generally...Is he mocking the conventions of the künstlerroman(a type of bildungsroman about the development of an artist) or embracing it?..."

It is a hard question, Don. Gardar is directed by the tradesman into the vocal career. The evidence for G's talent, his noisy "brawling" over the sounds of the Danish meat mill, does seem mocking. Gardar is shuttled into that overseas job, is set up in a house with a woman, and is advertised to his Icelandic townspeople as a renown opera singer, though they take this ability on hearsay alone. Most people would know the difference between a brawler and a singer of opera, so Laxness is being darkly humorous here. With Alfgrimur, his choice of career remains his own. Laxness leaves open the future results of A's musical instruction, upon which he is embarking overseas. Laxness doesn't exaggerate A's musical talent, which requires training, but A's grandfather supports the boy's personal decision to leave Iceland for further education. Whereas Gardar is associated with the domination of colonialism on Iceland; A's choice is symbolic of Iceland's freer contacts with Europe.


message 30: by Sheila (last edited Mar 31, 2014 01:23AM) (new)

Sheila | 15 comments Finally managed to track down a copy of this, but it's a few weeks away from a read, meanwhile enjoying your discussion comments - don't hold back on my account, I can easily cope with spoilers as I find it quite Ok to block them out when I begin to read.


message 31: by Betty (last edited Mar 31, 2014 09:04PM) (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3610 comments Don wrote: "... I take it to be a bildungsroman generally...Is he mocking the conventions of the künstlerroman(..."

Don wrote: "His writing seems to allow multiple interpretations. And too, as you pointed out earlier, he certainly is a versatile writer..."

I too find those two terms for coming-of-age novels, Künstlerroman being a kind of Bildungsroman whose protagonist is an artistic type like the musical Alfgrímur. During the novel, the young man does waffle about his future. He desires being a traditional lumpfisherman, but that way of life is fading out, I assume because of large-scale fishing boats and mechanized practices. So, he needs to adjust his desires to objective reality. As a fisherman, he might not earn a living, nor might he fill a valuable niche in the community. He has experience at singing for funerals, so that is a step in filling a socially useful role and in fulfilling himself.
"In its ideal form, the bildungsroman narrates “the reconciliation of the problematic individual… with concrete social reality,” in whose structures and institutions the protagonist finds “responses to the innermost demands of his soul” (Lukács, 132–33). [extract from Blackwell]
His tentative family relation Gardar is not an artist in practice or by desire. Perhaps, the one pure note initially implies both social usefulness and personal satisfaction. A character can aim for both of them to live in society, but maybe their attainment makes more plainly, glaringly visible that the heart's desire might not be found in daily life. Gardar lets go of his façade at the end, attempting to be more of himself than being what others want him to be. His ostensible death[?] shows that living as one desires might be impossible.


message 32: by Betty (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3610 comments Sheila wrote: "Finally managed to track down a copy of this, but it's a few weeks away from a read, meanwhile enjoying your discussion comments - don't hold back on my account, I can easily cope with spoilers as ..."

Glad that you are joining the discussion, Sheila. There is a lot of puzzlement about the characters and their lives, yet the story wins me over through Alfgrímur's narration about himself and his community.


message 33: by Betty (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3610 comments Don wrote: "...I think you are onto why this book didn't bowl me over the way that Iceland's Bell did. It seems like there is a lot of ambiguity mixed with irony which makes it hard to connect with."

Some parts of the story resemble vignettes which captivate the reader only to leave the reader mystified about what was left out of the picture :)


message 34: by Sheila (new)

Sheila | 15 comments Belated start I know but I have finally begun. So far I relate to Asma's comment "the story wins me over through Alfgrímur's narration about himself and his community. " He has a quite distinctive voice as a narrator - the things he tells and won't tell the reader - "So I think it only right, if I am to talk about my world, that I should first of all give some account of my grandfather" "But before I tell this story, I want above all to warn people against thinking that they are about to hear something epic or spectacular" "To corroborate this, I shall now mention briefly the question of fish...." "I have now said something about fish, but I have not yet said anything about the Bible", "... and this brings me at last to the matter uppermost in my mind.", "I shall say nothing about how it happened that a frock-coated gentleman arriving from abroad on the steamship itself should make straight for our turf cottage..." It is like he is an amateur narrator, unused to writing things down perhaps,and so giving structure to his thoughts and reminiscences, to his writing, to his reader. There is an element of control here, of keeping a steady hand at the helm, a steady hand over his flow of words onto the paper. 4 chapter in and I am wondering what this book will be if not an epic.

I'd never heard of this author before this thread and given he won the Nobel Prize for Literature that's quite surprising. Even more so now that I found his books in my local library and there is a waiting list and already I cannot renew because someone else has requested it!


message 35: by Sheila (new)

Sheila | 15 comments So far I love the small tales within the whole - the peat thief with a conscience and how the grandfather gives him the peats anyway because he truly needs them; the moral law relating to fish - how grandfather baulked at the economic law of supply and demand in favour of people believing his fish tasted better and trading with him year long even through periods when his fish was above market price - a canny trader, maintaining income levels throughout the year; and the story of Thordur the Baptist and the price of a Bible - how grandfather wouldn't take a "false" Bible and wouldn't take one without proper payment. All these show an honorable man. A man who, even though he didn't know what London was, clearly had a high level of social intelligence and social literacy and who always followed what he considered to be a good moral stance. The descriptions of the tissue thin paper of the London Bible reminds me of ones I had seen in my youth with extremely fine and thin paper, which if you licked your fingers to turn you had to take care not to break them as they seemed so delicate, but were actually quite resilient


message 36: by Sheila (last edited Apr 21, 2014 08:28AM) (new)

Sheila | 15 comments I just got to pg 52 to that wonderful description of Dostoyevsky - "When we talked about Danish novels, it was as if we had in mind a vague impression of Dostoyevsky and those other story-tellers who appear to have spilled a great mass of tar which then, obeying only the laws of gravity, somehow oozes along formlessly into every crack and crevice" - not sure I would agree with it, but a marvellous description nonetheless. What follows is a great description of the oral tradition of story telling and the socialisation surrounding such an event - with them all sitting in the loft, doing their various chores and listening to the storyteller, and the power of the story being told to engage and hold them all in awe and total attention. I could read that passage time and time again (bottom of pg 52 through to beginning of pg 53, Ch11 in my edition) I am reminded of one of my favourite novels Mario Vargas Llosa's The Storyteller

I notice that my edition is translated by Magnus Magnusson, very well known TV presenter and journalist in the UK and who is perhaps best known as the original host of the TV show Mastermind


message 37: by Maggie (new)

Maggie | 177 comments Sheila wrote: "So far I love the small tales within the whole - the peat thief with a conscience and how the grandfather gives him the peats anyway because he truly needs them; the moral law relating to fish - h..."

One of the great things about Internet reading groups is that the thread stays available for those who read the book later. Then those of us who read it earlier are treated to the thoughts of someone new, reminding us of how much we enjoyed the read. Your enjoyment of this book just enhances my own.


message 38: by Maggie (new)

Maggie | 177 comments Sheila wrote: "I just got to pg 52 to that wonderful description of Dostoyevsky - "When we talked about Danish novels, it was as if we had in mind a vague impression of Dostoyevsky and those other story-tellers ..."

I noticed this, too, and did somewhat agree with his description in that I always find Dostoyevsky books a depressing read, even while I enjoy the incredible craftsmanship.


message 39: by Betty (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3610 comments Sheila wrote: "So far I love the small tales within the whole..."

Sheila wrote: "...a great description of the oral tradition of story telling and the socialisation surrounding such an event - with them all sitting in the loft, doing their various chores and listening to the storyteller, and the power of the story being told to engage and hold them all in awe and total attention...."

Historically, there have been changes in the way stories get told and knowledge is stored. In pre-Christian Iceland and still prominently afterwards, the human memory was the place to store all knowledge of literature, legal code, and other compendia of knowledge. So too, stories were orally conveyed from memory in a communal setting prior to the advent of self-contained reading which interacted with printed words. Some evidence of orality is still around in audiobooks. People like to hear humanly told stories. Even the audiobook falls short of the original because its speaker is not speaking from memory, its motive primarily is entertainment, and because its listener often is a solitary individual.


message 40: by Maggie (new)

Maggie | 177 comments I think you're right about people preferring an oral format of a story. A Speech Professor challenged my class to reduce any book to a 5 minute story format. I'm. the only one who took it on, but I chose a non-fiction book. I felt I had successfully completed the assignment, because the only question asked of me was the name of the book and the author.


message 41: by Betty (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3610 comments Maggie wrote: "...A Speech Professor challenged my class to reduce any book to a 5 minute story format. I'm. the only one who took it on, but I chose a non-fiction book...."

Sort of a synopsis or an abstract. It's good practice for sorting out the trivialities from the big themes. That is harder to do with facts. The title must have been awesome.


message 42: by Maggie (new)

Maggie | 177 comments Asma wrote: "Maggie wrote: "...A Speech Professor challenged my class to reduce any book to a 5 minute story format. I'm. the only one who took it on, but I chose a non-fiction book...."

Sort of a synopsis or ..."


I think it was that my synopsis made several people want to read the entire book. It was about a priest in Italy who saved the lives of more than 1,000 Jews by hiding them in plain sight throughout his very small town by dressing them in Catholic clerical garb. The name of the book is The Assissi Underground. I'm sure it's long out of print now and I don't remember the author. It was a challenge to see if I could reduce the salient facts to a 5 minute speech. You had to finish within 10 seconds of the time of your speech, so I had a very small window of error. Too long or too short and you dropped a grade point.


message 43: by Betty (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3610 comments Maggie wrote: "...It was about a priest in Italy who saved the lives of more than 1,000 Jews by hiding them in plain sight throughout his very small town by dressing them in Catholic clerical garb. The name of the book is The Assissi Underground. ..."

You were a very motivated student then as well as are now. Goodreads describes The Assisi Underground: The Priests Who Rescued Jews. Like you say, it's a true story, a biography. The book was made into a film.


message 44: by Maggie (new)

Maggie | 177 comments I didn't know there was a movie. I'll have to check Netflix. And all of this is off topic. I apologize for highjacking the thread.


message 45: by Sheila (new)

Sheila | 15 comments Asma wrote: "Even the audiobook falls short of the original because its speaker is not speaking from memory, its motive primarily is entertainment, and because its listener often is a solitary individual. " So right Asma, the oral tradition imparts morals, history, folklore etc , creates a sense of person, place, community, clan/kinship etc that nothing else compares to


message 46: by Sheila (new)

Sheila | 15 comments In post 15 Asma wrote: "the intriguing phrase "one pure note" appears throughout the story" Yes, I've just been reading a bit where the narrator is talking with PasterJohann after he starts to sing again after his voice breaks, the Paster says "But it is the special grace if God allows them to sing the note that they hear" I'm thinking that on one level this is just a comment about hearing and reproducing notes correctly ie singing in tune, but given that this is a book about growing up I am thinking also that it is a metaphor for a person finding our who he really is and what he should be doing in life. At this stage in the book the narrator has just recounted his first brush with love in his awkwardness with Blaer and how he is changing from wanting to be a lumpfisherman. By the way lump fish are pretty ugly looking fish http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lumpsucker


message 47: by Betty (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3610 comments Sheila wrote: "...phrase "one pure note"...I'm thinking that on one level this is just a comment about hearing and reproducing notes correctly ie singing in tune, but given that this is a book about growing up I am thinking also that it is a metaphor for a person finding our who he really is and what he should be doing in life. ..."

The singing's notes being in tune bring up a difference between Alfgrímur and Gardar, the latter who can't carry a tune. The story's hope points to Alfgrímur, who will seek his own true self. The modernizing Icelandic fishing industry changes traditional methods of fishermen like the caretakers of Alfgrímur's youth carried out. His pleasurable memories of traditional fishing would naturally attract him. The changing fishing industry in the automation of large-scale hauling and processing on big boats coincides with further changes in modern career preparation. He adapts to the modern ways when he departs Iceland for further education. One doesn't know what further changes the future requires of him after he acquires musical training abroad. In the process, he will experience more than his specific Icelandic culture.

I never looked up any information about that much-talked of, much-eaten lumpfish. The article you point to mentions the uses of its roe for caviar.


message 48: by Betty (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3610 comments Sheila wrote: "...the oral tradition imparts morals, history, folklore etc , creates a sense of person, place, community, clan/kinship etc that nothing else compares to"

The Faraway Nearby might elaborate on those communal connections of storytelling. We'll find out later this year when The World's Literature reads it.


message 49: by Sheila (last edited Apr 26, 2014 09:03AM) (new)

Sheila | 15 comments Asma wrote: "[book:The Faraway Nearby|1..." That looks an interesting book I must pencil in the diary when it is being read and order it from the Library - when is it?


message 50: by Betty (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3610 comments The discussion of The Faraway Nearby begins in mid-October.

https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/...


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